The Year of The Windows Tablet
Roughly 100 million tablets (iPads, Kindle Fires, Nooks, and Nexus 7s) have been sold, and that number will only rise with nearly every company throwing their hat into the ring, such as Toys’R'Us, and more importantly, Microsoft.
“A Fundamental Shift”
Make no mistake—Microsoft will be around for a very long time. They have around $58 billion dollars in the bank. They could spend a million dollars a day for the next 158 years with that kind of coin. Despite their very evident success, Redmond has missed some colossal markets in recent years: mobile, tablets and search.
In his latest letter to investors, CEO Steve Ballmer says that there is “a fundamental shift underway in our business …” Indeed, Microsoft is now trying to make up for lost ground in the aforementioned areas. Perhaps the most intriguing is their new tablet, Microsoft Surface, set to be released today. Historically, Microsoft has left the hardware side of the business to other companies, and they’ve focused solely on the software—not so anymore. In his letter, Ballmer elucidates, “There will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes.” Naturally, their hardware partners are nervous about being cut out of the process.
This new tablet also sports a new OS, either Windows 8 or Windows RT (if you’re thinking Runtime, it actually stands for nothing). Microsoft hasn’t really explained to consumers what the difference between those two are, which will be a problem this holiday season as they sell their first tablet.
Perhaps the most significant advance, in my opinion, is the unification of all of Microsoft’s UIs into one, cohesive design language (just don’t call it Metro). Whether you’re using an Xbox, a Windows Phone, Microsoft Surface or a desktop with Windows 8, they will all look and work the same. Initial reviews are symptomatic of the first generation of practically every product. It has cool new features, but it’s hampered by bugs that should have been worked out before being introduced to the general public. Bugs are one thing, a dearth of apps is an entirely different matter. Without any killer app, or apps in general, I am puzzled by Microsoft’s first foray into the tablet market.
The Largest Tech Company on Earth
The iPad Mini
There’s no doubt Steve Jobs wasn’t buying the idea of a 7 inch tablet. There’s also no doubt that Apple will sell untold numbers of the newly unveiled iPad mini this holiday season. In the latest Apple event, CEO Tim Cook also revealed new MacBooks, a new Mac Mini, the incredibly svelte, newly redesigned iMac, as well as a new full-sized iPad. Critics will surely laud the new iDevices as polished and well designed.
In July, Cook announced that iPad sales were twice that of Macs in K-12 schools. With the announcement of the iPad mini, Cook said that “80 percent of the nation’s core curricula is available on Apple’s digital bookstore, iBooks.” Priced at $329, the iPad mini may find its way into a classroom near you.
A Changing of the Guard
In the past, Microsoft was the monolithic, evil Borg-like organization set out to allegedly abuse its monopoly power, and Apple was the fledgling underdog barely hanging on to financial solvency. As the only constant is change, their roles have somewhat reversed. Apple is now the most valuable company on the face of the planet, and Microsoft has seemingly been in the doldrums for several years.
Apple is riding the tide of it’s virtually unstoppable ascendency, but they mustn’t rest on their laurels. Microsoft is offering a keyboard/cover with its new tablet, which also includes a touchpad, that looks to change mobile computing. In several years, consumers will have been pulled out of the valley of despair from making the switch to Windows 8, developers (developers, developers) will have stocked the app store with apps, and Microsoft will reach even greater heights.
That’s the plan, at least, on the surface.
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